By Chris Jones
On the mountain bike it’s a steady slog to the top thinking about singletrack.
Today I rode a bit, not ridden for a while and was keen to get out so didn’t pay much attention to the forecast before grabbing my summer bike, thought to grab a wind jacket as I left, automatic reflex, jacket hanging by the door. Not a proper coat but a lightweight windproof. Big mistake. Should have noticed the clouds but it was early, very early. Could have turned around at the bottom of the street to get something more substantial to wear but no, enthusiasm overriding pragmatism.
2 miles. That’s the distance to the bottom of the first noticeable climb from my house, it marks the point where a ride properly starts. On a good day on the best road bike it’s big ring to the top, never going to bother the top of the Strava leaderboard but ahead of my mates. On the mountain bike it’s a steady slog to the top thinking about singletrack. Today it was where the first bit of rain hit my glasses. Nothing to turn around for. Inner ring, legs heavy from other hobbies that demand more time. Reach the top and soon turn off the main road and drop towards quieter lanes. No sound other than birds and rain now bouncing off my helmet, wind jacket still holding out against what is approaching a deluge.
Start to climb, tarmac forming the bed of a stream. I have a bow wave forming around my tyres. Wishing for my winter bike with full mudguards, function over form. Instead carbon and minimal clearance for rubber, never mind practical additions.
Jacket surrendering to the conditions, slowly the cold damp feeling of water as it penetrates the seams, wicking in reverse as the elements try to cool me against my will. Reach the top and the rain takes things up a level, with the addition of wind and mist. Visibility now so reduced that my rear light is bounced back off the airborne reflective environment that I now ride in. Wish I had a bigger front light on. But no one else is daft enough to be out in this.
Turn for home, not the distance I had in mind but now my feet are damp, water bypassing the old overshoes that I’d absent-mindedly pulled over my shoes. Hadn’t thought about them until that cold feeling, surprised at how well they’d done.
20 miles, no feeling in my fingers, light full finger gloves worn only because of the early start, now soaked through. Nearly home, I can feel the warmth from the shower already.
25 miles, home. Shivering and shaking. Put the bike away first, silent vow to give her a check over and some lube later knowing I will forget. Stand in the kitchen, the centerpiece of an indoor water feature. Will need to get that sorted before anyone else gets up. Hit the shower and it hurts, so turn down the temperature, colder water to warm up. Thawing. Hands red from the cold, feet the same.
Outside the sun is now shining. Steam rising from the deck. Summertime. Inside I’m smiling. Alive. A cyclist again.